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Eye catching

February 13, 2017

Looking for a diversion from boat chores we headed to the mountainous interior of Trinidad for a one night break from Sage.

We chose the Asa Wright Nature Centre for Conservation. It’s focus is as a centre for bird watchers and research of indigenous bird species. The centre features a lodge with an incredible balcony overlooking the Arima Valley and the main dining area for people who are staying at the centre.

On the balcony at Asa Wright Centre

On the balcony at Asa Wright Centre

From the balcony in the early morning hours and in the late afternoon the balcony offers magnificent views of the valley and the hundreds of birds that come to the garden to feed off the plants and flowers planted to attract various bird species of which include toucans, humming birds, honey creepers, tanagiers, mannakins, bearded bell birds etc You get the picture.

There is nothing like sitting on the balcony sipping on locally grown and roasted coffee at 0600hrs as the light is increasing to see the change in species feeding at the feeding tables and insects. Slowly the sunrise reveals the valley and the bird species start to change.

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                                                                   Banamaquit

 

One could sit on the balcony all day to watch the various bird species but heading out an a walk through the forested areas with a guide reveals so many more species but more difficult to see. The centre has miles of trains scattered through their 1500 acres of property.

Chlorophanesspiza (green honeycreeper)

Chlorophanes  spiza (green honeycreeper)

We could have spent more nights there as the accommodation was excellent. With three meals a day plus morning coffee on the balcony and a late afternoon rum punch we thought we were in the lap of luxury – which when you look at it we were!

There was one more stop before heading back for more boat chores and that was the Coroni Bird Sanctuary. Yes, another birding adventure but this time on the water. The sanctuary is primarily a series of mangrove channels with numerous open lake type areas where the main feature is the scarlet ibis.

Getting out to the scarlet ibis roosts takes one through the numerous mangrove channels where one can see dozens of egrets as well as snakes that are curled around the branches above the boats that take people out to see the ibises.

Just one portion of the many channels that make up the Coroni Sanctuary

            One portion of the many channels that make up the Coroni Sanctuary

This has to be one of the most incredible natural sights to see.  My top three natural sites are the sand dunes of the Namibian Desert, the Alaska Peninsula on a sunny day(!) and number three is the scarlet ibises.

One can go early in the morning (0430hrs) or late in the afternoon (1600-1830hrs). One has to go out by boat so we joined a boat holding about 20 people. Motoring out through the mangrove channels we stopped numerous times for different birds and snakes. Finally we arrived at a rather large expanse of open water within the mangroves and tied up to a stake placed in the water.

Just one of the snakes sleeping in the branches above the boat

                  Just one of the snakes sleeping in the branches above the boat

Initially, there were no scarlet ibises to be seen but there were a few great herons and egrets all in white standing out against the mangrove forested background. Around 1730hrs a lone scarlets ibis flew in to roost on the island in front of us. Okay, we were impressed but where were the others? Slowly individual ibises appeared increasing the population on the higher levels of the treetops.

A lone ibis

                                                                       A lone ibis

At around 1800hrs larger flocks started to appear. Coming in low over the water from the west they swooped across the waters edge, made a few turns around the island to make sure their roost was available and then started to paint the island orange.

 

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                  Flocks of several hundred at a time would sweep across the lake

Can't compete with this equipment display. These people were also at the Asa Wright centre

Can’t compete with this equipment display. These people were also at the Asa Wright centre

Unfortunately, I didn’t have either the camera equipment nor the presence of mind to think of what was needed for photo taking at this site. I would love to return with a better idea of what is needed for photographing this natural phenomena.

By the end we were just gobsmacked at the number of scarlett ibises. I only wished we had Sage sitting in the middle of the lagoon to stay all night to see them leave in the morning. Instead we had to leave the lake before dark but as we motored back to the beginning the ibises continued to come straight toward the boat we were in as we motored along the mangrove channels.

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For 20 minutes we sat in the boat watching grouping after grouping flying in for the night. Eventually the island was painted orange.

All I can say is that it’s worth coming to Trinidad just to see this natural event. And if you stay  you can attend Carnival…

Ascencion to Trinidad

February 4, 2017
Our routing from Ascencion to Trinidad

                                 Our routing from Ascencion to Trinidad

This is not an exciting blog but rather an unabridged diary taken on the voyage from Ascension to Trinidad. Read on if you wish or turn to the next blog….stay tuned as we fix all the small items on Sage and head  north towards Grenada

Damn – 4 days of writing just got erased. How did that happen? Wonders of tablets. Oh well, in review I had stories of visiting petrels that nested and fought on the radar dome, on the dodger, on the bimini and all around us at night. I finally got a little fed up and despite my original hospitality have decided the days clean up was not worth it and have now discouraged them from landing.

There were stories of fish boats, sunsets and frustrations with a non functioning satellite phone. The satellite phone is now working and once more we are hooked up to our shore based weather reporting from a world-renowned weather forecaster Leo (an old friend from sailing in the 80s who kindly watches over us).

I guess now I start again but at Day 5

Day 5

Petrel night again. This time four of them. That’s enough. All I can think of is having to clean up in the morning – not nearly as bad as having a boobie on board. I have banned boobies onboard as they are a guano machine extraordinaire.

The petrels were fun for a while but at times they fought for their favourite perch, on top of the radar dome, and the squabbling went on for hours. I am always amazed at their energy. From the early hours of the morning till late at night they flit through the seas millimetres above the surface as though they are challenging the sea to catch and drown them. Their efforts are relentless, flying quickly and accurately to scoop up whatever they can find to eat. They don’t seem to ever take a rest.

Lots of fishboats last night. What worries us is that they are setting nets. This time they are lighted but nevertheless we are concerned about running over one of the buoys from their nets either in daylight or night and getting the prop, rudder or centreboard tangled up in the rope descending down and attached to the net. Just one more thing to keep on our minds.

Full moon coming up. So much nicer to be sailing under a full moon. Lots of light all night which makes changing sails that much easier. Last night finally went to twin running headsails – one drifter and one genoa with no mainsail. Wind is lightning after posting daily 24hour runs of over 140 miles/day for the last 5 days. Not bad for a 38 foot boat.

Just tried the AM radio as we are 290 miles from the Brazilian coast. And yes, now we can samba and rumba under the full moon!

Day 6

120 miles from Ferdinand de Noronja. Wow, 12 hours from noon to midnight we did 83 miles and no current. I am certainly not complaining about boat performance. We are doing really well so far and all that without current. We should start hitting the current, which is in our favour, within 2 days and further up the coast near French Guyana the current is apparently running at 2+ knots. That will be a great boost to our progress.

We are not stopping in Forteleza. It’s a combination of visa complications and the fact we want to be in the Caribbean during the non hurricane season.

I don’t understand the seas this morning. The last 36 hours gave us a comfortable ride but for some reason this morning we are skewing all over the place. It’s the right sail combination for the wind but there must be some changes in the swell we can’t identify.

No birds last night which is a bit of a relief. No cleanup. They have also disappeared from the waves so I think perhaps the food source has gone. We aren’t seeing as many flying fish and no fishboats last night.

Shower day today. Salt water scrub and a couple of glasses of fresh water rinse.

Shower time - a bucket of salt water 10 x over and then 1/2 litre fresh water rinse

Shower time – a bucket of salt water 10 x over and then 1/2 litre fresh water rinse

Ummm, I keep dreaming of all the showers we have had access to in the last month and wish we had one here with unlimited supplies. We’ve only had one minor rainfall but not enough to test out our water collection system which lies under the solar panel. Am sure we will get rain as we pass through the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone).

Day 7

Wow – the beginning of our 7th day at sea brings a morning delight  – the sighting off the port bow of the island of Noronja. It’s about 30 miles away and is a very tempting stop but we decline due to visa problems and a $100/day fee for anchoring and park fees. It doesn’t diminish the delight that there is land on this planet and we delight in gazing wistfully at the sharp rising pinnacles rising out of the sea. Can’t we stop?

No, we’ve set out sights on Isla du Salud (Devil’s Island) in French Guyana as our first South American landfall. We still have another 1100 miles to go and if we can keep this rate of speed up we should be there in another 6 days.

Petrel update – one spent the night on the life ring. I asked where his friends were but he declined an answer so as  not to give away the best of the fishing spots. Tomorrow though I intend on fishing so if he comes back tonight it’s on condition that he lets me in on some fishing secrets.

We’re running again on twin headsails – genoa on one side and small jib on the other. Wind is from the south south east at about 15knots giving us a speed of 6-8knots. We are supposed to have 1/2 knot of current in our favour but hard to tell.

Pizza last night – a little red wine. a checkered tablecloth and we could be in a pizza restaurant in Italy. The only difference is that in Italy one doesn’t have to chase the pizza around the cockpit. So the best action is just take the whole pizza in hand and stuff it in. Was great.

We are eating well and a few pounds are dropping off as thee aren’t any desserts and quantities are way less than my normal appetite can bear! However, health wise I would say we are doing well but my accident prone self started off in Ascencion when I broke my toe. Then there are all the blood smears peppering sails and deck structures where I scrape myself and bleed profusely thanks to a daily dose of aspirin to keep the heart pumping! I am now not allowed out of the cockpit without shoes, a hockey helmet, gloves and knee pads! I think it’s all a plot to get me to sink faster if I fall overboard as I never use a safety harness.

 

Fashion day onboard Sage

Fashion day onboard Sage – people often ask what we wear at sea. This is full outfit for special occasions otherwise….um….

Very stylish and considering were in South American waters Che's picture is appropriate

Very stylish and considering were in South American waters Che’s picture is appropriate

Day 8

Nothing unusual to report this morning as we move fairly gently 200 miles off the South American coast. No fishboats, no petrels, no ships but the remnants of a full moon guide us along.

Routine doesn’t change much.  There’s always meals to think about and prepare for as they are the highlight of the day. Each day though the fresh items get more depleted; the cabbages now three weeks old are starting to rot, the oranges are still ok but past their best due date as are the apples. What is keeping well are onions, garlic, ginger and surprisingly tomatoes (such are modern-day tomatoes).

To supplement our fresh diet I have put out the fishing line this morning. This is the first time since the murder of the bluefin tuna. I just hope we catch something a little smaller and not so endangered. A nice mahi mahi would be nice although I always feel guilty on those ones as well as they mate for life and travel in pairs.  Some people say you may as put the line in after catching the first one so as to catch the second one that’s somewhere looking for their mate.

I figure that the petrel brought good luck for fishing despite the fact ithis mahi mahi would have been too big to share with the petrel

OK enough of killing and back to life onboard which I have to admit is getting a little tedious. What does keep us going though are our vast storehouse of both electronic and hard copy books.  I have been transported from the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge (When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him), along the murderous path of a military psychopath in Louise Penny’s A Trick of Light, down to the emotional depths and highs of Ian Brown’s story of bringing up a severely mentally challenged son in Boy Moon and then through the height of the rock and roll melieu through autobiographies of Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. There are many more to list not to mention a number of cookbooks which I can salivate over while Connie cooks 90% of meals offshore! I just get to dream of a great market and the chance to make some of the wonderful meals in cookbooks such as Ottolenghi’s Plenty and River Cafe Italian Kitchen. Oh why do I torture myself?

We’re not running out of water but we left Ascencion with full tanks (2 X 200 litres) + 60 litres in containers. Unlike many other boats we don’t have a water maker  – just another item to have to pay for, maintain and repair! However, at this stage it would be nice after a salt water bath to shower off with lots of fresh water. Ummm, maybe on my 65 footer fully crewed there may be a place for a water maker.

Day 9

Interminable – yes this seems to go on forever. And it’s only Day 9 of probably 19! Yikes….Sailing well but last night was the first night of fairly light wind since leaving Cape Town – all of 6-8kn of south wind. The morning has shown increasing strength and now we’re sliding along at 7kn with 12kn of SE.

Yesterday was full of drama. As I mentioned it was time for a fishing day.  Well, out the line went, flying fish were everywhere and the assumption being was that something was chasing them. It wasn’t till the afternoon that I was sitting out on deck when fhhhhsssssst the feel went crazy. By the time I grabbed my gloves the line on the reel was almost entirely gone. Oh no, I thought, another big tuna and all I want is fish for dinner.

After a long battle we pulled in what must have been a 10kg mahi mahi. He got his revenge though and broke my fishing rod!

Mahi mahi revenge

Mahi mahi revenge

Good on him….so fresh fish for dinner, breakfast, lunch, dinner ad infinitum for the next few days.  This is where a freezer would come in handy – SV Soelelie (this is a sailboat I know has a big freezer) where are you? I know your freezer is empty.

Next on the list was some maintenance on the ropes (sheet lines) on the genoa. Another hour spent winding things up, pulling on ropes, sewing and then putting it all back together again. Who says there’s nothing to do.

And then one of the bolts on the self steering was coming loose. Empty the locker making sure heaving things like portable generators and scuba tanks aren’t rolling around in the cockpit while I dig a tunnel to the stern of the boat. Finally got that bolt tightened and the locker all packed again. Another hours work and no overtime pay.

Despite all these excitements I’m still dying to get to shore and walk around, have a shower, buy fresh vegetables and come back to a boat that isn’t constantly moving around.

Day 10

Things have changed. We are off the Brazilian coast just east of Forteleza heading on a course of 305M. This puts us at 1 degree 50 minutes S  just south of the equator and the notorious ITCZ. Rain this morning but not enough to effectively capture enough off the solar panel cum rain catcher. Always the problem with rain catchers is one is either having to deal with a heavy squall on the approaching rain or like us we haven’t quite got the water catcher functioning  fully ie. right size hose connectors.

So with about a cup of captured rain our dreams of a long shower disappear but there are lots of other clouds on the horizon that look promising. Believe me we desperately need  good showers! Enough said there. I can hear the sailors out there saying “Duh, get a water maker”.

Ah the petrels are back. Sounds and looks like another Hitchcock movie. This time though he’s solitary. However, he has made a mess all over the place so the other job while it rained was to clean up the barn. Yes, that’s what it feels like with theses nightly visits.

We are on our last route line on the GPS taking us to Isla du Salud in French Guyana. We have no idea what to expect in terms of clearance as these are islands and the closest clearing station is 14 miles across a very shallow bank. We plan to just anchor at the island and see what happens. Yikes, and it’s French officialdom…

We still have 900 miles to go but it feels like a milestone at this point and helps to buoy spirits and what has been a good trip but awfully long. After French Guyana it’s 600 miles to Trinidad where we hope showers and fresh food await as well as places to repair a few items.

Day 11 and 12

Yes, neglected to write yesterday. Wasn’t a great day. It’s a change from the SE trades and into the ITCZ and then into the NE trades. We are still in the ITCZ with, this morning, rain-soaked streaky gray ribbons all around us.  We haven’t had rain this morning but late yesterday afternoon had a small rain shower come down on us with enough rain to 1/2 fill a water bottle and enough to wash the salt off our heads. Not quite enough for a full shower but it sure felt good.

The bad news is that the forward hatch got left open when we were sailing in a stiff breeze and this morning found that part of the forward V-berth was quite wet. At least at sea we don’t use that berth but it’s salt water and until we can get to a place with lots of water there’s little we can do but at least try and dry it out a bit. With the heat and humidity of the tropics this is hard to resolve.

Most of the wind is now from the NE or ENE and we are hard on the wind trying to make progress. It’s certainly not like the SE trades where the wind was from behind and we were making great time. Here it’s a bit of a slog what with the pitching and rolling and trying to figure out if we can stay on our track to French Guyana. It’s almost hard holding the course line and we are still 600 miles away. I just don’t want to have to beat along the South American coastline to get to our destination of Isla du Salud.

I’ve almost lost count of the days. Strange as  a sailor’s life is controlled by the clock: we stand watches which is determined by time, we navigate which is reliant on accurate time pieces with precise knowledge of date and day, we set up routines around times of the day to eat and,when closer to shore. try to arrive in a new destination that isn’t going to charge us for clearance because we have come in after hours. With all that to consider one would think we know exactly how many days we have been at sea. But, no, the days flow one into another and I think for self-preservation we consciously don’t count as it’s too painful. We gauge it all from how far we are from the destination and the closer we get then the more cognizant we become of the number of days past and the number to follow.

Me, I just want to arrive and then I may feel normal again.Right now I just want to have a calm anchorage to enjoy. It’s been almost 6 weeks that we have not had to brace ourselves onboard even on those days at anchorage in St. Helena and Ascencion. A quiet anchorage would be welcome…

Day 13

Aaaaargh – wind has gone to the north. It’s raining and the wind howls and we are nowhere near being able to point where we want to go. In fact we are now headed further out to sea instead of to our destination. Sometimes it just feels like what the hell are we putting ourselves through..

Last night was slow. The wind died and for the first time in a long while we actually motored as there wasn’t enough wind to keep the boat pushing through lumpy seas. So for 4 hours we motor slowly through pouring rain, spectacular displays of lightening (which I personally hate) and almost complete darkness as the waning moon was hidden by clouds.

On the bright side I don’t have to hide from the sun today. There are no breaks in the clouds; it’s simply squall line after squall line making us feel like a duck in a shooting gallery.

Let’s hope there’s brighter news when I open this up tomorrow.

Day 14

A wind from the east. What a godsend. Instead of being hard on the wind not pointing our destination we are now running before the wind. At least that we for last night and so far early this morning.

Another visitor last night. At first I was trying to shoo Jonathan off his perch and thinking I had succeeded went to sit down only to hear Jonathan landing on the solar panel on top of the dodger, then a scrabbling slide and a thunk. I looked on the side deck to see a stunned Jonathan down near our water collection bottle. I tried pushing him off again but no, he said, “I’m staying here for the night”. I realised this was not a normal reaction and allowed him to stay on the side deck for the night. He’s and immature seagull (dont’ know variety) and I think he’s starving and off course. There are no other birds around here and I don’t think there are a lot of fish. He looks weak and tired and at present remains perched on the radar dome. As long as he’s on the radar dome or side deck it’s OK. Will see what happens.

Jonathan without any friends

                                            Jonathan without any friends

Down below everything is damp. The skies are cloudy, humidity at 81%, clothes and towels are wet from continued occasional rain. Luckily at this latitude one doesn’t need clothes so not much in the way of wet clothes. However, someone left the forward hatch open and sea water came in to soak the top mattress. The inside of the boat is like a locker room; wet, damp, mould smelling and basically a mess. We try to clean up but it just doesn’t seem to last long as we stumble around grabbing supports, falling down and generally making a mess as soon as the previous one is cleaned up. It’s a losing battle and one that we dont’ make progress on until we get to port.

We don’t know what awaits us in Isle du Salud as there is no clearance there. Clearance is in Kourou a 14 mile sail across the bay through a very dubious looking channel which we are not about to navigate through. We’ll stop but don’t know what kind of reception we’ll get or if there is a local boat we can take to clear in and clear out as we won’t stay long. However, our San Francisco weatherman says that in Couman, about 100km from Salud there is weekend dance fests. Umm, let’s polish the dancing shoes, put on some non mouldy clothes and head for the music hall.

Am keen to get to Trinidad and make tracks in the Caribbean.

Day 15

Wow – the  last 24 hours have been awesome. The wind is just right, 8-10knots just forward of the beam, skies clear and seas pretty calm. On top of all that we averaging 6.8knots or about 150 miles/24hours.  Best of all is the comfort and the night skies. There is no moon to obliterate the stars. With the largest river in the world, the Amazon, just off to port, the Caribbean only another 1,000 miles ahead, the sky full of stars it’s a wonderous night. All the efforts of the last 6 weeks are obliterated just by one perfect night – a night to remember.

Jonathan didn’t return last night but Peter the Petrel did — alone….No problem there; smaller bird, less mess! One ship sighted but so far away she seemed like another star in the inky blackness where the sea meets the night sky. Would be nice to see another sailboat. I know they are out here  but just where they are is anyones guess.

Certainly our spirits are up this morning as the sky isn’t so ITCZ- like. There are  thick cumulus nimbus clouds ready to burst with rain around us but the wind remains constant and the sun shines between gaps in the clouds.

There’s always something to worry about though. We only have 1 tank of propane left and that’s usually good for 10 days +. We haven’t switched over but if we can’t refill in French Guyana and have to make it to Trinidad, another 600 miles, we may not have enough. Stop worrying I say but…

It will be nice to see land again. Although we are well into our routines and good walk on shore and friendly hello would make my day. Oh yes, and a croissant and a few baguettes and, and, and….

Day 16

A challenging night. Ships, squalls, rain, wind and nerves. One piece of equipment I find helpful is the masthead strobe light. Last night I turned it on when there was a ship approaching from astern. Looking from his view all he would see is our white stern light amongst all the stars. Easy to see? No. Turn on the strobe and call on the VHF and yes, he sees the strobe and is adjusting course. Another disaster avoided.  These factors all combine to a make a stressful night of sailing. As offshore sailors will tell you it’s when you close the shore that stress levels increase. We would much rather be out at sea with lots of sea room.

Here, off the coast of Brazil and French Guyana is a perfect example. For most of our journey we have been sailing over depths of 4-6,000 metres. Approaching the coast there is a sharp decrease in-depth about 100 miles offshore to 100 metres. When the seabed decreases so rapidly it causes the sea to break as it adjusts to the depth change. In fine weather it’s OK but when winds are strong and have built up a good wave height this can be problematic. Keeping this in the back of mind makes for sleepless off watches. It will be good to get in….

Day 17

Another magnificent night of rolling along under the stars. We are now north of Brazil and heading inshore to French Guyana for what we believe is a well deserved break. We have 60 miles to go and getting a little excited as well as a little apprehensive.

We have no idea what to expect of French Guyana apart from another French colony with coffee, croissants and duck confit. What makes us apprehensive are the formalities. The clearance port is Kourou but to get to the town one has to make their way up a 14 mile channel with undetermined depth and location. It’s buoyed but things change depending on weather and obviously we don’t have local knowledge.

For the time being we simply hope there is some way to legally get onshore, have a walk, buy some supplies, get water and this is all combined with a comfortable anchorage. Just in case we are stymied by the authorities Connie has a set of cinnamon rolls on the rise, I have a bread loaf on the rise and if necessary we are ready to leave for Trinidad.

As we close the coast the water-colour is changing from the deep-sea blue to a semi muddy conglomerate. I gather this must be partly from the waters of the Amazon to the south being brought north by the north setting current and mixing with river waters coming out from French Guyana. Dreams of jumping overboard into crystal clear water swarming with fish in the anchorage quickly dissipate. That won’t stop me from jumping overboard despite lack of clarity. It just won’t be for too long. I don’t trust muddy waters and what lurks below the surface.

This morning over our breakfast of granola and yoghurt we turned on the local radio. Wow, latin music and the BBC World Service top-of-the-hour news broadcast. Civilization (?) does exist. We can hardly wait…

Day 18

Arrived at Isla Du Salud around 1645hrs and anchored in cloudy water at a depth of 7m. There was a German yacht there who pulled up their anchor after we had settled. A short conversation with them revealed they had got in earlier in the day after 16 days from Jacare and were headed further north looking for a restaurant!

So, we’re now anchored alone off of what is perhaps better known as Devil’s Island best known from the movie Papillon based on the book by Alexander Dumas, I think. Anyway, it’s now a historic site and if we get a chance will go ashore to investigate although we are not officially in the country. I think by the time authorities are notified of our presence it will take them a few days to get out from the mainland and then we’ll be gone, or that’s what we’re counting on.

We got into the anchorage just in time as the ITCZ made its presence known again and the night was sprinkled by short bursts of wind and rain. We were glad to be at anchor. We’ll make sure the weather is clear before we leave as dont’ want to spend a night at sea with the same.

Day 19

I am so sick of this anchorage. When we came in the seas were flat but within 24 hours a swell swept into the anchorage and we roll and pitch making at sea look enticing. I think we are just tired after being on a boat that moves 24-7 and has so since leaving Cape Town on December 1st. We just want a peaceful anchorage where we can walk around the boat without fear of being thrown overboard or against a bulkhead. Oh well, we leave tomorrow.

Isla du Salud has not been explored. There is no energy left to launching the dinghy and finding a place on shore to leave it. There is a dock but only for tourist boats. There are no services onshore and we are having to beg water from the tourist boats. Obviously our legal status leaves us vulnerable as we’re not cleared in so we are reticent to walk around. There’s no restaurant, no baguettes, no croissants so it’s on to Trinidad where we can have roti and

We have been busy onboard cleaning things up and making it habitable and fixing a million and one small things that need tweaking before heading to sea once again. The shores of NE Central America are not enticing. The harbours/towns are mostly located 15-30 miles up a river and from oceanside involve a long marked channel that’s shallow and dubious due to shifting mud/sand. In some ways I would like to poke my head into one of these places but motoring up a cloudy river has never been my most likely adventure.

Day 20

We were leaving today for Trinidad but the ITCZ has produced its usual squalls and rain and we’re hunkered down waiting to see what happens. Who wants to start a trip with a soggy boat?

We moved closer in to shore to try and get some more protection from the swell. The swell reduced a lot yesterday so our movements are not bad and being closer in has brought more improvement.

I forgot to mention yesterday morning at 0300hrs we were awoken by the sound of very deep-throated engines next to Sage. We both jumped out of bed to find a 80m tanker between us and the shore. Now the shore was only 50m off our port side. Yes, we were staggered this ship would go between us and the shore. We both stood on the deck gobsmacked unable to think of what we could do. We were unmovable as we realised we were at the mercy of fate. We realised the ship was moving slowly around us and was under control but we wonder to this day whether or not he actually saw us.

I’ve made a few forays around the anchorage in the kayak asking if anyone has water. One of the charter catamarans took my containers and returned the next day with them full of drinking water and mentioned he was more than willing to do it again if we wished. Thank you.

We try to catch water but the showers are so quick and short-lived we can’t collect much. Am pretty sure we have enough to get to Trinidad but will be glad to once again have full tanks. We usually carry 400 litres and since leaving Ascension with full tanks we are still pulling from the original tank which is 1/2 of our total capacity i.e. 200ltr

Isle du Salud – a verdant jungle that in the evening comes alive to the sounds of cicadas and bird life. Although we see little bird life other than tropic birds and frigate birds we are serenaded by the sounds of parrots during our dinner hour. We are itching to get ashore.

Looking over to Isle Diablo from Isle Royale

                             Looking over to Isle Diablo from Isle Royale

All we can see from the anchorage are a few dilapidated buildings that are literally rotting away. Intricate in the streaks of rust and mould that drip down the facades along with shutters that hang by a single hinge and a roof that’s partly collapsed.

This is not to say there aren’t other buildings on the shoreline that are well maintained. There’s the generator shed. It’s not really a shed but more the remnants of the processing centre for new prisoners coming ashore or leaving. Beautiful arches line the front of the building along with floor to ceiling barred windows. The generator pounds out its rhythm day and night sucking cooling water out of the ocean and spewing it back in along the waterfront wall in an ever flowing warm water cascade.

At night from the anchorage the lighthouse on the north-east side of the island can’t be seen but the loom of the light is there. In ever a rotating rhythm the light spins catching the tops of trees on part of the island and continuing out over the ocean. It has two beams that flash by every 6 seconds. In a way it’s eerie as we can’t see the tower and we’re not looking directly into the light. Also eerie as am sure there are many ghosts that stroll through island pathways at night considering the past history.

The lighthouse that functions today next to the officers hospital

The lighthouse that functions today next to the officers hospital long since abandoned

We are definitely isolated here. It’s 14 miles across the ocean to Kourou. Tourist catamarans make the trip out here for the day and people wander around looking at buildings and walking pathways. There are no beaches and the water is warm but totally silt laden not only due to the Amazon south of us but numerous rivers that are bringing silt down from the interior. The only sea life seen from the anchorage here are turtles but those are fleeting glances.

The main functioning building which is a hotel and a restaurant

                       The main functioning building which is a hotel and a restaurant

Day 21

Left Salud in  early morning being chased out by Russians. The island is under the auspices of the French space agency and the Russians had contracted the use of the island to test one of its missles. The day we left everyone was being evacuated from the island for 48 hours.

After all the efforts of yrying to be low key we found ourselves in the midst of a military action. So the first officials to visit were the naval police. They checked all our documentation and never said a word about clearance. Following their visit and being told we had to leave the area b y 12 noon the following day we went ashore for a walk around Isle Royale.

Returning to the boat in late afternoon the customs boat arrived. Yikes, we thought, we are in real trouble but they never came over but did stay the entire night in the anchorage. We left at 0730hrs under gray skies and pouring rain.

Day 22

Last night was not fun. 25-30 knots NE wind with a double reefed main. Very uncomfortable but we made good  time as there is a 3-4 knot current in our favour.

Highlight of last night was seeing the missle in the night sky. Appeared at 30 degrees above the horizon as a large orange ball increasing in intensity and then flickered out as I imagine it exploded

Day 23

Wind still strong and we are just holding our course line. Yesterdays 24 hour run was 177miles! I would prefer more comfort than the miles. Too uncomfortable to write more. Retreating to bunk and wishing for less wind.

Day 24

Things are improving and it’s not because we are less than 200 miles from our destination. The wind finally dropped down a little although we are still under a double reefed main and a working sized jib. That still means we’re making 7.5 knots at the top end and 5 at the boottom end. It’s certainly not the end to our challenges.

Got up this morning to find our fresh water pump wasn’t working. It’s electrical and I haven’t determined why it’s not working other than the pump is shot. Luckily I had plumped in an emergency foot pump. We usually use the foot pump for salt water but it’s a simple 10 minute plumbing job to switch the salt water pump to become fresh water. Voila, access to needed fresh water but yet another item on the to do list in Trinidad. I just wish I had better knowledge of electrics and electronics. Ah well I will muddle through it after arrival and for the time being relax.

Yes, more comfort means better sleeps and less than 200 miles to go means an improved attitude. I will say this section of the trip has been uncomfortable but Sage sees us through once again.

Day 25

Wow there is land in site. Our night was filled with dodging oil rigs and ships as we made our way in towards land. The night sky was magnificent with the southern cross getting lower and lower on the horizon as we head north and now the north star is in view.

The wind was perfect last night only started to die as we entered that last 45 miles stretch before turning in the large bay that makes up western Trinidad’s coastline. We are now motoring. Yes, after almost 3000 miles we are having to motor due to lack of wind. And here I thought we would have no problem finding wind. The sun has started to rise and reveals the mountainous landscape that makes up this part of Trinidad. The decks were incredibly wet last night and seeing the morning haze here I understand why. It’s only 0630hrs and it’s already beginning to feel like a sauna.

We still have 35 miles to go and at our motoring speed and the sea conditions I can see it’s going to take us a while to get there. Then there are the formalities – customs, immigration, port authority and then finally finding a place to stop either at anchor or in a marina.

And then it’s time to figure out our carnival costume.

Ascension Island – the land of turtle porn

January 3, 2017

5 1/2 days sail from St. Helena and we find ourselves in what has to be one of the remotest islands in the world. Or, at least, it ranks with places like the Galapagos, Tristan de Cunha, the Falklands etc for being out in the middle of nowhere. 

However, like all the remote islands in the world they have been taken over by the military/industrial complex and here on Ascencion the place bristles with aerials of all sizes. It started out as a BBC world service Atlantic relay station. It still is. However, amongst the BBC aerials there are RAF and USAF antennaes all watching and listening to the world. There are in fact areas where the signs indicating it would be very dangerous to walk out in the landscape due to extremely intense HF waves! Okay so what am I doing driving along this road amidst all these wires?

I’ll backtrack a minute and just mention some incidents on our sail north to Ascencion.  First off, through a satellite phone (Inmarsat) we have onboard for receiving weather information and a few emails  we learnt of some friends, Ann and Chris, onboard Silver Girl, were about to abandon their boat due to a lost rudder. We got one message and managed to send off a reply of support. One day later our sat phone refuses to connect to the required network.  What! Yes, just at a critical moment we have lost contact with our fiends in need. It’s now almost one week later and we have no idea what has happened and if they were able to safely get onboard the ship that was heading their way to affect a rescue. 

It’s minor to say we are pissed off at our network server. This is the first time in 5 years of use that we have not been able to connect to the sat phone server. If we manage to make contact with them from Ascencion I would not like to be the person on the other end of the line.

Obviously we are very worried about our friends. We were both headed the same way and had future plans that meant spending time with them in the Caribbean and if everything worked out anchorages further along the route. We are desperate for news of their safety but may not hear anything until we make it to better served internet location. 

Other than the above the trip from St. Helena was spent changing sails, checking weather, eating, reading, sunset and bird watching and finally fishing. And yes, we were successful. Having changed my fishing line from 35kg test line to 135kg test line I now have not lost one lure and we caught one 15kg bluefin tuna!  So what do two people do with 35kg of tuna let alone 1kg? Feeling very guilty I threw over 1/2 the tuna and then we gorged ourselves on the remaining 15kgs. Tuna sashimi, tuna steaks, tuna spaghetti, tuna, tuna, tuna. I think we eached turned blue after eating it all!

Ascencion and the part you have all been waiting for – turtle porn!  Yes, it’s the season. Here away from prying eyes and hungry inhabitants the turtles are cavorting in the bay. Flippers are flying, water is flying everywhere, turtle bellies are exposed, eyes are glazed and the turtles are .ucking their way to heaven! The sea around us abounds with turtles in lust. Are they hungry? I think they have only one thing on their minds and that’s how to fertilize those eggs before the females head to shore in the evening to lay their eggs on the beaches. It’s a marathon. Essential to survival and these guys are big. Apparently there is no food soirce here for them. Instead they leave their feeding grounds 4 months prior to arrival here having had little to eat with only one thing on their minds and it ain’t food!

Of course, the turtles provide us with hours of entertainment. They are all around the boat and the bay. We sit in the cockpit and encourage them along in their endeavours with cheers of support and ablutions that keep us in a merry mood. It’s a wonderful sight and all played to a backdrop of one incredible island that combines a lunar lower elevation landscape with a towering (818metres) mountain, Green Mountain. The mountain is the source of the water for consumption of approximately 800 non-permanent residents. Although recently a desalination plant has been added and as a result at the peir the water is sold at the rate of 1GBP/40 litres. The mountain also houses the Chief Adminstrator from the UK who looks down from his kingdom on high and makes proclomations, such as the one in the mid 1990s, that segregation on the island is now finished!  Yes, folks in the 1990s.

We are here till Thursday. The anchorage is again an open roadstead and a north swell is upon us which means I have to chase the keyboard as it slides over the other side of the dining table and with my foot hold on to my cup of coffee. It’s a balancing act and we are looking forward to a smooth and peaceful anchorage somewhere along the South American coastline. It’s a long way, 2100miles to Forteleza and about 2800 to Trinidad!  It’s a long way and am sure adventures will abound – more books, more pasta, more rice and perhaps a mahi-mahi or tuna. 

Hope everyone had a great New Years and fortunes for the new year are in the offering. Just remember to share those fortunes with others!

St Helena

December 24, 2016

A very quick post with no pictures due to expensive and limited internet capabilities.

It’s Christmas Eve and we are sitting at anchor off the main port town of St. Helena – Jamestown

The anchorage is an open roadstead i.e. there is no protection from the ocean swells but we are on the lee side of the island. That doesn’t stop the Christmas ornaments from swinging violently from side to side on the inside of the boat nor negate the need to cook with a gimbaled stove. The wind howls in powerful gusts down the valley of Jamestown, blasts across the waterfront and out into the anchorage. Sometimes these gusts reach 40 knots pushing us onto our sides and rattling our drinks (oh, poor us!) 

All in all though we have enjoyed St. Helena what with incredible hikes, lovely landscapes and extrememly friendly people. Everyone knows everyone else and no-one passes without a “hello” or at least a wave from a speeding car. Of course, everyone is in the Christmas mood. There has already been one parade of lights and tonight everyone comes to town and walks from the hospital to the waterfront to wish each other Merry Christmas. Of course, we’re going. We have ordered a special ferry trip ashore as for the next four days ferry services in the anchorage have ceased. 

Speaking of ferry service it’s been wonderful. The mooring buoys provided for 2GBP/day are outside the main anchorage and a ferry service to take one ashore on an hourly basis. One needs the ferry service as there are no beaches to leave ones dinghy and even if there were one would have to surf in with the likely consequence of an unscheduled bath. It’s just too unprotected from the swell to provide safe arrival.

So, to all, a Merry Christmas. And since we are heading to sea on Christmas day we also wish you a Happy New Year considering we will still be at sea on our way to Ascenion. This time there is no tracker as our crew member, Gary, has abondoned ship and left for his hometown of Cape Town and taken his tracking device with him. It was a great experiment and hope all readers had enjoyment watching our progress. The next leg is not as far – 800NM and we’ll be there. Time depends on the wind but judging from the wind now we should be there in about 7 days or less. 

Season’s Greetings

December 1, 2016

 

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From us in the lower latitudes to those of you in the higher latitudes we send you some warmth. May you all have a great season of laughter, warmth and wonderful foods with friends and family. 

We are leaving South Africa and heading to St. Helena for the holiday season. We hope to enjoy some Napoleon Brandy and hike the hills of St. Helena while contemplating Napoleon’s fate.

If you wish to follow our route from Cape Town to St. Helena then check us out here

I guess since we won’t be close to internet for a couple of months we should also wish everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Kruger National Park

November 26, 2016

Sitting peacefully under a marula tree, sipping my morning coffee which, by the way, elephants go mad about (marula not coffee), an elderly white South African woman hobbled by and said “it’s a great life, as long as you don’t weaken’.

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                Trying to figure out what this elderly woman meant by her saying

I let her walk by without hardly a response but letting my precious coffee get cold I mused on that comment until she hobbled by in the opposite direction and I asked her ‘what do you mean by the expression you used?” Her only reply was “it’s an old South African expression”. Well that left me very bewildered and I went off in the other direction to talk to someone with a great looking South African camping trailer.

So, that’s sums up our visit to Kruger. Actually, no that’s not true.

We made a mad dash up to Kruger taking the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg ($65pp- including a private sleeper for 2 people and a 26 hour train ride).

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Connie, never a happy train traveller, gazing out the window at the start of the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg

At least Connie has decided to relax when we see we have the whole cabin to ourselves. But then we got move to a 4 person cabin but luckily has that to ourselves

At least Connie has decided to relax when we see we have the whole cabin to ourselves. But then we got move to a 4 person cabin but luckily has that to ourselves

We packed our cooler with food but did have dinner in the dining car while the train rattled, rocked and rolled across the Karoo and up to the Johannesburg plateau – 1753 metres above sea level. Connie is not the most gracious train traveller so I had only booked a one way ticket without thinking how we were going to return!

Disembarking 4 hours late left us little time to get out-of-town in our dinky-toy of a car, a Chev Spark. Great on gas mileage but I suspect that’s because you have to get out on the hills and push it up. Thank god Kruger is at almost the same elevation above sea level as Johannesburg. Even I can’t complain though of a car that uses 4.5lites/100km.

Does this all sound like I am trying to do this trip on the cheap?

We managed to get out-of-town far enough to find very reasonable accommodation (cheap?) in Middleburg. Before we arrived though the skies darkened, the rain pelted down and we put the duck boards into the car and floated to a hotel found on the internet 10km before arrival. It was dark. We couldn’t see anything. Our trustworthy google maps app guided us into a docking space and yes, there was room for the night.

Little did we realise until the following morning that Middleburg, which, in daylight we were saying was a lovely looking quiet town, was embroiled on the national news with a very strange story. Contrast the previous link’s to this one and you get an idea of South Africa’s dilemma.

Such is South Africa for which I could go on ad nauseam about but love.

We treated ourselves to a self contained rondaval in Skukuza which is one of about four base camps set inside the park and very well run by the South African National Parks.

Nowhere are visitors gouged at the till for supplies. Each of the base camps has a store for more than basic supplies. Each base camp has a restaurant of more than average quality and a wine selection that makes me dr00l.

A gruelling schedule was de riguer. Up at 0500hrs, make tea, jump in the car and spend the next 3 hours looking for animals and then a stop at a rest camp for coffee and a small breakfast of yoghurt and fruit.

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Always need a translator in South Africa as the only people who speak the Queen’s                                              English are the transient Zimbabwe workers!

Then back into the car for another 4 hours of animal hunting then a packed lunch. Then back home to a bottle of wine. All in all we probably only drove less than 100km/day. Drive slow and see more animals. Be patient – aaaargh!

Here are a few of the animals and birds we saw (click on any photo to enlarge):

 

 

 

 

Mzoli’s

November 6, 2016

What else does one do on a Sunday when the chandleries have closed to purchase needed hardware to keep on with boat work but head for Mzoli’s.

Mzoli’s is well-known on the backpackers route but better known by the people in the township as a place to go and unwind with a beer and a braii (BBQ) plate of meat and some music. It’s located in one of Cape Town’s townships and in probably one of the busiest police precincts, especially after dark.

We needed a place to unwind and to get away from boat work so off we went with three friends Gary, Angela and Verena (Toby, Verena’s partner and Connie stayed behind as felt it all too much!)

Mzoli’s is actually a butcher shop. However, it’s the first stop for an afternoon’s activity as it’s at the butcher shop where one orders your braii plate and take it to the back of the store where there are 4 large braiis already fired up and they are ready to cook your choices of meat.

 

 

Lining up outside the shop smelling the braii and salavating and waiting for our turn to order

Lining up outside the shop smelling the braii and salivating and waiting for our turn to order

Gary, Angela and Vereena trying to see if they can phone in their order to avoid the lineup

Gary, Angela and Vereena trying to see if they can phone in their order to avoid the lineup

Once inside pandemonium reigns as people are keen to eat

Once inside pandemonium reigns as people are keen to eat

The Braiis

                                                               The Braiis

The bar. Only one customer. Not many are drinking anything but a few beers.

     The bar. Only one customer. Not many are drinking anything but a few beers.

The gathering place

                                                           The gathering place

First it's s little dancing before our braii plate is ready

                           First it’s s little dancing before our braii plate is ready

Then it's chow time - definitely not a vegetarian delight

                           Then it’s chow time – definitely not a vegetarian delight

 

An excited reveller taking a selfie

                                         An excited reveller taking a selfie

So afer a few hours of dancing and a few beers it’s time to go.  Mzoli’s runs from 0900hrs to 2000hrs. It was a great experience and one of the few places where the races actively mix in South Africa. This is mostly a young person’s place and if this is representative of the new South Africa then it’s very positive.  In very few areas does one see mixed race activities. It’s a country of separation.